FARMINGTON —  State health officials worried about the public’s safety shut down the Fortune Fountain Chinese restaurant last week. An inspection revealed excessive violations of Maine’s Food Code, Lisa Roy and Rebecca Walsh said Thursday afternoon in Augusta.

It was the second time in six months that excessive violations prompted an imminent health hazard suspension of owner Fortune Fountain Restaurant Inc.’s license to prepare and serve food, they said.

Roy is the director of the Maine Department of Environmental Health’s Health Inspection Program, which regulates restaurants and lodging places, and Walsh is a supervisor.

Nine critical violations and 15 noncritical violations were found, prompting license suspension for 30 days as of the May 1 inspection, Walsh said.

Calls to the restaurant for comment on Thursday afternoon were answered by a recording saying the business is closed for renovations. That is also stated on the restaurant’s sign beside Route 2.

Additionally, a young girl at the home of Lottie Chan of Wilton, the corporation’s president, said Chan was unavailable for comment early Thursday evening.

Among critical violations cited, the person in charge at the time of the inspection didn’t ensure that all persons in the food areas complied with Maine’s Food Code, the six-page inspection report states.

Additionally, food employees were not washing their hands between handling raw food and ready-to-eat food as required, food was contacting uncleaned equipment surfaces, and hot and cold foods were not maintained at proper temperatures.

Among the noncritical violations are required renovations to the ceiling and walls in the rear storage area and the kitchen ceiling, uncovered food stored in a walk-in cooler was touching cardboard from a wrapping container, wiping cloths were not being stored in a sanitizer solution between uses, and a hand-wash sink in the food preparation area was blocked by buckets.

According to the report, critical violations should be corrected within 10 days, whereas noncritical violations must be completed prior to the next routine inspection.

“Typically, if there’s excessive violations, the issue is that there is a public safety issue that they can’t prepare and serve food in a safe manner, and so we ask them to close and clean,” Walsh said.

Responding to complaints she’d received about the restaurant owner stating they are closed for renovations, Walsh said she doesn’t consider that to be erroneous, because walls and ceilings must be repaired.

Walsh and Roy said state inspectors are working with Fortune Fountain to correct the violations and ensure the public’s safety before allowing the restaurant to reopen.

Health inspectors have been working with Fortune Fountain since January 2011, trying to gain compliance on a variety of issues, Walsh said.

There were 12 inspection reports filed last year, several of which found excessive violations, she and Roy said.

The restaurant’s license was last suspended on November 9, 2011, due to excessive violations.

Another inspection on Nov. 10 again revealed excessive violations.

“We issued another imminent health hazard and asked them to remain closed,” Walsh said.

A follow-up inspection conducted on Nov. 19 again found violations, but they weren’t substantial enough to warrant a failed inspection.

“We did see improvement,” Walsh said. “Sometimes it wasn’t as much of an improvement as at other times, but there have been improvements.”

The May 1 inspection was prompted by a referral from a state liquor licensing inspector, whom Walsh said noticed food code violations and alerted them.

“We see ourselves as education,” Walsh said.

“We go in, we see a violation and sometimes it’s just a matter of someone understanding why something is an issue and primarily, that’s what our inspectors do —  it’s all about educating people.

“Our goal is for everyone that has an establishment to operate within accordance with the food code and have a safe business and a successful business,” she said.

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Health Inspection Reports from Fortune Fountain Restaurant

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